Category Archives: Opinions

Islam Makhachev can prove Khabib Nurmagomedov right at UFC 267

Last weekend marked one year to the day that Khabib Nurmagomedov officially retired from mixed martial arts as an undefeated champion, following a submission win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

After the fight and subsequent confirmation of his decision to retire from the sport, Khabib did a round of media interviews across the world where he was asked who he believed the best fighters in the division were now that he was gone.

One name consistently popped up, his teammate and long-time friend Islam Makhachev.

Makhachev has since improved his record to 20-1, with two wins this year against Drew Dober at UFC 259 and then a main event win over Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31 in July.

This weekend at UFC 267 he returns to Abu Dhabi and Fight Island to take on Dan Hooker in a three-round lightweight fight on the main card.

It was supposed to be Rafael Dos Anjos in a grudge match, but the Brazilian withdrew following knee surgery and it was ‘Hangman’ who stepped in on short-notice after he snapped a two-fight losing streak with a decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266.

Stylistically, the fight still favours Makhachev. He is a great striker on the feet with good power to match up with Hooker’s kickboxing, but he has the ability to take a fight to the ground and keep it there in a dominant way – much like Khabib did.

Hooker will be looking for a huge upset on the night, but if Makhachev can get the victory that many are predicting and expecting on the night then he will further help to prove that Khabib was right about him the whole time.

With the lightweight title fight at UFC 269 in December just around the corner between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier, a stand-out win for Makhachev could easily see him installed as the next contender for the belt.

He is currently ranked at number 5 with Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler ahead of him scheduled to fight each other, with both men coming off title shot defeats.

Beneil Dariush is the other man ahead of Makhachev, but proving Khabib right at UFC 267 means he is likely just two wins away at most from becoming the lightweight champion of the world.

Khamzat Chimaev faces different task on return at UFC 267

The year 2020 was wildly remembered by many MMA fans as the year that Swedish fighter Khamzat Chimaev broke into the mainstream.

Two wins in ten days on Fight Island followed by a 17-second knockout win over Gerald Meerschaert meant that Chimaev was being pushed to the moon in the UFC by president Dana White.

He was openly fighting in two weight classes and was even given the opportunity to fight a top-five ranked fighter in Leon Edwards despite never having fought anyone else in the rankings.

But with the Edwards fight being made, rescheduled and then scrapped three times the hype died down a little.

Chimaev suffered with COVID-19 and had long term symptoms from the virus that caused the world to shut down. The problems with his health led to kidney issues and he even teased retirement at one point.

But after receiving treatment, listening to the doctors’ advice to rest and finally getting healthy again, the 27-year-old is now ready to return to the Octagon once again at UFC 267 when he faces highly rated Jingliang Li.

This time however, the expectation surrounding him will be far greater than ever before.

There was a period of time where the buzz around Chimaev was so great that people were genuinely pushing for him to get a title shot against Kamaru Usman or Israel Adesanya, despite three wins against unranked fighters.

The moment has passed now however and many have seen the light that it was likely too soon for that to be a thing, so he now must prove himself all over again against a fighter who many believe could have a big future in the organisation.

On top of the fact that Li is by far the best fighter he’s ever fought, there will be pressure on him to deliver just as he has in each of his three dominant wins.

If he wants to pick up where he left off and get the hype train rolling again, simply winning may not be enough. But what a win does do is prove his legitimacy in the company and among the best around.

A win over Li means there is no going back for Chimaev as is the strength of the division. There will only be killers in his future, with super tough fights no matter where he looks.

This is the biggest test and biggest moment of his young career to date and Chimaev is going to look to take it with both hands at UFC 267.

UFC Vegas 41: Marvin Vettori can silence his doubters with impressive showing

The UFC Vegas 41 main event is set to be an absolute banger when knockout artist Paulo Costa takes on the machine that is Marvin Vettori in the middleweight division.

It’ll be the first time that Vettori has stepped into the cage since his UFC 263 defeat to Israel Adesanya, a rematch he had been clamouring for since their first fight in 2018.

That first bout was a split decision victory for the current 185lbs champion, but Vettori had always protested that he won the fight.

After some injury problems and over a year out, Vettori returned the following year and racked up a five-fight win streak in order to claim a title shot earlier this year.

In each of those fights, the Italian was able to completely dominate and overwhelm each of his opponents. He secured only the second finish of his UFC tenure so far when he choked out Karl Roberson in their grudge match, but aside from that has completely controlled fights from start to finish.

His performance against Jack Hermansson was particularly impressive given he took the fight on short-notice, while he dealt with the explosive striking and power of Kevin Holland well too in the fight following that.

But against Adesanya in the rematch he failed to really show his tools. There was a lot of waiting, less of that overwhelming pressure that we’ve seen in the past and he wasn’t able to secure significant takedowns in the fight to get the fight where he wants it.

Marvin Vettori of Italy punches Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in their UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 263 event at Gila River Arena...

The power and accuracy of Adesanya’s striking warranted a slight change in game plan for sure, but Vettori disappointed his fans and himself with his performance that night.

Now, against a powerhouse like Costa who has 11 knockouts from 13 career wins, Vettori can look to put it right.

He will look to get the fight down again as he always does and he will look to walk forward with pressure. Costa arguably has more knockout power than Adesanya, despite the ‘Last Stylebender’ owning a KO victory over the Brazilian, but he’s not as fast or accurate.

Marvin Vettori of Italy walks to the octagon during the UFC 263 middleweight championship match against Israel Adesanya at Gila River Arena on June...

This is a chance for Vettori to step into the cage and deliver a performance that fans can go back to in the future as a sign of why he is among the best middleweights in the world.

He is missing that stellar win on his resume right now, that career defining moment. The UFC Vegas 41 main event is the chance for him to earn that and put himself on the map as being in the title conversation for the foreseeable future.

Paulo Costa can earn some respect back with a win at UFC Vegas 41

Before we start off, it should be made abundantly clear that anybody who steps into the octagon or any type of combat sports arena deserves the utmost respect just for getting in there.

When those men and women get in there at any level, it’s a credit to their talent, determination and dedication that they are able to achieve any sort of success in there.

So when a fighter makes it at the very highest level, it’s even more incredible and deserves even more respect and praise.

That’s why getting beyond the rankings and getting into the title contention in the UFC is such a hugely coveted achievement in the world of mixed martial arts and combat sports.

Brazilian middleweight Paulo Costa is one of those who has been able to do that, competing currently with a record of 13-1 professionally and 5-1 in the UFC up to this point.

Of his 13 professional wins, Costa has earned 11 knockout victories and one submission win with the only time he has ever reached the judge’s scorecards being in a brilliant win over Yoel Romero at UFC 241.

That brilliant form and momentum earned him a title shot against Israel Adesanya at UFC 253, after months of back and forth between the two on social media and even face-to-face.

Costa promised a violent, knockout finish against his nemesis and while the fight delivered, it was he who lay in the centre of the octagon unconscious at the end of the second round.

Israel Adesanya of Nigeria punches Paulo Costa of Brazil in their middleweight championship bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight...

There’s no shame in losing to Adesanya, who has proven himself to be one of the greatest strikers in UFC history throughout his tenure as champion at 185lbs. But the excuses and attitude of Costa following that fight are appalling.

The Brazilian first claimed he deserved an immediate rematch because he couldn’t sleep the night before and wasn’t feeling himself. He then admitted to drinking an entire bottle of wine to try and put himself to sleep and hinted that he may have been drunk while in the cage, hence his performance.

There were reports that he went into the fight injured after a tough camp too, before it became clear that he wouldn’t be getting another title shot any time soon.

He was then scheduled to face Robert Whittaker in a huge main event fight, with the winner likely able to claim themselves as the number one contender. Costa withdrew from the fight after testing positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Kelvin Gastelum, who Whittaker defeated handily.


With the Aussie now firmly set as the number one contender, Costa was matched with Jared Cannonier in another attempt to keep him in the title picture.

The fights were announced by the UFC, only for Costa to withdraw just days later claiming he never signed a bout agreement and that he wanted more money to fight. The fight was scrapped and Cannonier fought Gastelum instead, winning also.

Throughout the process Costa has been vocal about fighting, but he only wants certain fights and has become the obnoxious big man who tries to bully his way to success.

He’ll finally get back in the cage against Marvin Vettori this weekend at UFC Vegas 41, Adesanya’s most recent victim in the middleweight title picture.

Paulo Costa of Brazil gestures to Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in their middleweight championship bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight...

It’s the age old question of what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object. But for Costa, it’s about showing that he’s worth all the talk he’s been spewing over the last 13 months.

A win for ‘Borrachina’ will set him among the elites of the division undoubtedly and set him up in a position to claim a title shot at some point in 2022.

A loss though and all the respect he had goes out of the window and he becomes just another talker with power in the UFC.

UFC setting a bad example with Aspen Ladd main event spot

Weight cutting has long been a topic of discussion in the MMA world, with many disputing just how necessary it is for fighters.

Often you’ll see fighters cutting 20+lbs of weight during fight week in order to make their weight class before pouring the weight back on before they get in the cage, just so that they can have as much of an advantage as possible on fight night.

In recent years, we’ve started to see a change in mentality from fighters though as the sport evolves and fighters become more and more skilled.

Fighters like Michael Chiesa, Henry Cejudo, Dustin Poirier and Israel Adesanya have opted to move up in weight and found great success at their more “natural” weight class, as opposed to killing themselves for a slight edge.

With the women’s weight classes being so light however, the 10lbs space between the divisions tends to leave a few of them in the in-betweener stage.

Take for example Aspen Ladd, the women’s bantamweight contender who has suffered defeat just once in her professional career. Ladd has however struggled with the 135lbs weight limit throughout her UFC tenure.

Her debut was scrapped when she fell ill on the day of the fight owing to a rough weight cut. She then missed weight by 1.8lbs two fights later and the fight was scrapped when Leslie Smith refused to fight at a catchweight.

She then just about made weight against Germaine De Randamie, despite shaking and wincing in pain on the scale. She was cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission but following her 16-second knockout defeat, she was suspended after it was found that she had gained 18% of her weight back between weigh-ins and fight night.

Most recently though, her fight against Macy Chiasson at UFC Vegas 38 was scrapped when Ladd once again was visibly shaky and in pain on the scale as she missed weight by 1lbs. The fight was cancelled when the doctors failed to clear her.

Yet just two weeks later, the 26-year-old finds herself named as the A-side in a main event bout against Norma Dumont at UFC Vegas 40 in the featherweight division.

Now, granted that the bout is up a weight class, but how is it that Ladd is being rewarded with an immediate new date and main event slot so soon after missing weight yet again?

Chiasson will have to wait for a new opponent, have a new fight camp in preparation and continue working her way up the ladder, while her opponent who broke the rules gets an upwards push.

Considering that UFC president Dana White has regularly slated fighters for not making weight as unprofessional, his decision to move Ladd into this spot is odd.

Should she win, the UFC will likely pretend it never even happened and she’ll be pushed as a potential contender to Amanda Nunes’ second belt.

Maybe it’s the timing that makes the entire thing seem off, but the UFC have rewarded someone who couldn’t do their job properly and tried to shortcut their way to success.

Aspen Ladd poses after failing to make weight during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on October 01, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

She’ll now get her show money that she missed out on previously because she gets a new fight so quickly, a potential win bonus and performance bonus if it goes well and a brand new opportunity to start fresh.

It’s a bad example that the UFC have set and if it continues to happen in the future, don’t be surprised to see even more fighters missing weight because of a lack of consequences.

UFC Vegas 39 Fallout: Marina Rodriguez striking clinic makes her a contender

The UFC Vegas 39 main event didn’t quite go the way many expected as Marina Rodriguez survived a grappling onslaught from Mackenzie Dern to earn a brilliant decision win after a striking clinic.

The two Brazilian’s met in the strawweight division ranked as the number four and number six respectively, with a win for either woman opening up title contention in the near future.

Dern, who was on a five-fight win streak going into the bout, was the pre-fight favourite with the bookies and after an even first round she seemed to get the fight in the perfect place early in the second.

Dern got a takedown and immediately worked for a submission to end the bout early, with the fight finally where she wanted it to take place.

Rodriguez seemed to attempt a d’arce choke from the bottom in her defence and while Dern took a 10-8 round in many people’s eyes, Rodriguez survived the onslaught. That was the turning point in the fight.

Barring the final 30 seconds in the fourth round where Dern was once again able to get the fight to the ground, Rodriguez dominated on the feet.

She used her sharp jab, piercing right straight and an oblique kick to perfection as she pieced up Dern on the feet for the vast majority of the fight.

Marina Rodriguez of Brazil celebrates her victory over Mackenzie Dern in their women's strawweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX...

It was a rare occasion that the pure striker came out on top over the pure grappler in a mixed martial arts bout and showed that Rodriguez is a true contender in the weight class, proving she can go toe to toe with the best around and keep the fight in her world.

While Dern must go back to earning herself title contention, Rodriguez now looks ahead to a potential title eliminator bout.

Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang will meet in the co-main event at UFC 268 next month with the 115lbs strawweight title on the line. The winner of that is likely to face Carla Esparza, who is on a five-fight win streak herself.

The UFC could potentially pair Rodriguez with Esparza in a rematch, with Rodriguez’s only professional defeat coming in a split decision loss to the former champion.

Marina Rodriguez of Brazil poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 09, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If not, it could lead to a blockbuster match-up between Rodriguez and Jedrzejczyk who hasn’t fought since her stunning defeat to Zhang back in March 2020.

A striker’s paradise, the winner of that could then potentially claim a title shot too but it would also keep the top of the division moving in one of the most stacked weight classes on the roster.

With the likes of Yan Xiaonan also in the mix at the top end that’s important too, but Rodriguez is now in the drivers seat and has proven she is a legitimate threat to anyone in the division.

Why Mackenzie Dern can finally break into title contention

It’s not often that you get two contenders in the upper end of the UFC rankings fighting and there’s zero talk around a title shot for their fight.

That seems to be the case currently with the UFC Vegas 39 main event, as Mackenzie Dern looks to make it five wins in a row in the women’s strawweight division when she takes on Marina Rodriguez who has won her last two.

Both women are currently ranked at number four and six respectively at 115lbs, with a title fight scheduled for next month and two inactive fighters ahead of them. A win for either really gives them a chance to stake a claim for a title fight.

As they meet in their contender fight, the landscape of the division is currently uncertain.

Rose Namajunas makes her first title defence since winning the belt from Weili Zhang at UFC 261, when she takes on the Chinese fighter in an immediate rematch at UFC 268 in November.

Number two ranked Joanna Jedrzejczyk hasn’t fought since her defeat to Zhang back at UFC 248 in March 2020 in arguably the greatest women’s mixed martial arts fight of all-time. That was however her fourth defeat in six fights, with all four coming in title fights.

It begs the question of whether she can compete at the very highest level anymore, considering she dominated the strawweight division for years before defeat to Namajunas. With no fight close to being scheduled at the time of writing and the Pole stating she’s only interested in title fights at this time, it’s probably fair to discount her from the race.

Below her is Carla Esparza, who has won five in a row and most recently earned a knockout win over Xiaonan Yan at UFC Vegas 27. She’s got the biggest claim to a title shot next, but her star power is lacking and after three of those five wins came via decisions that weren’t unanimous there is a case to make her earn the shot once more against a top five opponent.

That opens the door for Dern or Rodriguez to claim a spot against the winner of Namajunas and Zhang at some point in early 2022.

The winner will have beaten someone currently in contention, unlike the two ranked fighters above them currently, and would provide very different match ups for whoever the champion is compared to what they have fought previously in their UFC careers.

A first main event slot for Dern means she has the opportunity to make a statement of intent and show the world that she really is ready to challenge for the throne. She just has to win first.

Why it’s time for the UFC to move on from Conor McGregor and Jon Jones

It’s been a while, granted, but Jon Jones and Conor McGregor are back in the news for their antics outside of the octagon yet again.

After back-to-back KO defeats to Dustin Poirier this year, with the most recent at UFC 264 ending in a broken leg for ‘Notorious’, the Irishman was back in the limelight for an altercation with rapper Machine Gun Kelly at the MTV VMA awards last month.

Jones on the other hand hasn’t fought since February 2020 when he was controversially given the nod in a tight fight with Dominick Reyes at UFC 247. He relinquished his light heavyweight title after that fight in order to move up to the heavyweight division, but payment disputes with the company mean he is yet to debut at the biggest weight class despite being named publicly as the number one contender to the title.

But Jones was back in the public eye for all the wrong reasons last week, when he was arrested following his induction into the UFC Hall of Fame for his fight with Alexander Gustafsson.

‘Bones’ Jones was arrested on a domestic violence charge as well as injuring and disabling a vehicle after his fiance was seen with blood on her lip and clothes. She told police that he “pulled her hair a little bit” and witnesses claim she was “scared” of potentially seeing Jones again according to the police report.

For both fighters, it’s the latest in a long list of incidents that have taken outside the cage that have put a negative spin on their careers in mixed martial arts.

Inside the octagon, their greatness is undisputed. McGregor was of course the first ever two-weight simultaneous champion in the company’s history and is their biggest cash cow, with seven of their top ten highest ever selling pay-per-view events featuring him in the main event.

Jon Jones Makes A Vow In First Comments After Recent Arrest

Jones is regarded by many as the greatest of all-time with a record of 26-1 (1 no contest), with his only defeat coming by way of disqualification in a fight in which he completely dominated from start to end. He held the light heavyweight title on and off for ten years, only losing it after trouble with the law, USADA or relinquishing it.

But there comes a point where there is a changing of the guard in the cage but also outside of it, and it’s time for the UFC to create new stars and faces of the company to send these two to the rear-view mirror.

McGregor’s aura has gone anyway, with three defeats in his last four fights and all by stoppage too. Fans are no longer watching him to see him blow opponents away or even watch him get his mouth shut, they’re watching for the circus that comes with him and that’s not good for the UFC.

Jones is a tougher situation because despite his close-run wins over Thiago Santos and Reyes, he is still winning. A move up to heavyweight offers fresh match-ups, fresh rivalries and fresh opportunities which fans will absolutely love, but at what point do the UFC say enough is enough?

Conor McGregor arrest: UFC star arrested in Miami for strong-armed robbery  and criminal mischief | The Independent | The Independent

As Daniel Cormier reminded everyone already, there is a code of conduct in the UFC. It’s just up to them to enforce it. It’s safe to say that if this was anyone not named Jon Jones or Conor McGregor then the UFC would have cut ties a long time ago.

Now though, they must make a decision. Carry on as if nothing has happened and just cash in for as long as they can on star names, or build up new mega-stars who can take over the throne as the top guys in the company and give them far less grief.

Israel Adesanya, Max Holloway and Brandon Moreno have shown that it is possible to be a super popular, mega star in the mixed-martial arts world and not cause problems with the law. The UFC are a big enough brand and entity now that they don’t need to rely on one or two stars anymore.

Cut ties and lead by example. Do the right thing.

UFC Vegas 38 Fallout: Winner of the main event? The rest of the division

UFC Vegas 38 produced an action-packed card with seven finishes (including a no contest) from 12 bouts but the main event that was supposed to produce fireworks barely produced sparks.

Thiago Santos fought against Johnny Walker in the highly anticipated main event in the light heavyweight division, with both guys having produced 30 knockout wins between them without mentioning the fact they’ve each been knocked out three times too.

The expectation was that both would step forward and throw explosive attacks that would eventually land clean and put one of them on the mat, but what we saw was 25 minutes of largely timid and tactical strategy from both guys as they looked to simply out-point each other.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a tentative approach when the person across the octagon is trying to take your head off and is very capable of doing so with one punch or kick.

Santos earned the win by landing the heavier shots of the fight throughout, but at no point were either fighter hurt or in any sort of real danger.

The win will keep him in the top five in the rankings but the real winners of this fight are the guys already ahead of him in the rankings.

Jan Blachowicz will defend his title against Glover Teixeira at the end of the month, with Jiri Prochazka the seemingly obvious next contender after his violent knockout wins over Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 251 and Dominick Reyes at UFC Vegas 25 in his two UFC outings.

Below him are two rivals who know each other well in Aleksandar Rakic and Anthony Smith, who fought to a three-round main event decision back in August 2020. Rakic got the win that time and has since beaten Santos too, but the manner of the wins hasn’t been particularly entertaining and has arguably harmed his stock.

Smith is now on a three-fight win streak since his own skid, with wins over Devin Clark, Jimmy Crute at UFC 261 and Ryan Spann at UFC Vegas 37. A rematch between Smith and Rakic now seems the most likely after their interactions on social media seemed to make clear they both were up for it.

So with Santos’ win, he doesn’t really meddle with any of those plans. Had he gone out there and taken Walker’s head off as he has done in the past with so many, including the champion Blachowicz once upon a time, then there would be more people calling for him to be involved in the title picture.

But with a lacklustre display, nobody is purring for him to be put into the mix. A win is a win, but in MMA it’s about how you win and Santos did himself no favours in reality with yet another timid performance, despite the change of result for the first time in four fights.

Nick Diaz’s return could be the start of something special

It will have been 2424 days since we’ve seen Nick Diaz in the octagon, or any type of official mixed martial arts bout for that matter, by the time UFC 266 rolls around.

The former Strikeforce welterweight champion hasn’t fought since UFC 183 in 2015, when he and Anderson Silva battled to a no-contest after both tested positive following the fight. That positive test, for marijuana, saw Diaz initially banned for five years before it was appealed and changed to 18 months.

After back and forth with the Nevada State Athletic Commission meant he couldn’t be in the corner of his brother Nate at UFC 196 and UFC 202, he is back and will fight Robbie Lawler at UFC 266 this weekend.

It’s 209 months since their first fight at UFC 247, 17 years ago. where Diaz shocked many by engaging in a stand-up war with ‘Ruthless’ and coming out victorious in a hugely impressive second-round knockout win.

Since then, their careers went on entirely different paths though. Lawler would go on to become the welterweight champion of the world, defeating Johnny Hendricks before defending the belt twice against Roy MacDonald and Carlos Condit.

Diaz eventually got cut from the UFC, before dominating in Strikeforce and then returning to the octagon, only to have a record of 1-2 1NC in his four fights against BJ Penn, Condit, Georges St-Pierre and Silva.

But in recent times, this rematch makes even more sense than it has at any point in their careers.

Nick Diaz arrives to the UFC 261 Weigh-In at at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 23, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida.

While Diaz has been away from the fight game competitively, Lawler has gone 3-5 including losing each of his last four bouts. His decline is well and truly in full flow and he’s not quite the fighter he once was, but those defeats all came to wrestlers who were able to eventually get him down and dominate him.

Diaz hasn’t been around for years, but it’s hard to imagine he will implement that tactic for the fight. He out-struck him all those years ago when he was deemed just a jiu-jitsu fighter, and his boxing only got better as the years went on.

If Diaz can claim a victory, then not only will it be a brilliant comeback story but it could be the start of something magical.

The chances of a potential title run are slim because Kamaru Usman is just that good and at the age of 38 Diaz is likely past his best, especially after missing so many years of competitive fighting. But there is great potential for some stunning fights that would get fans salivating and earn him a bucket load of cash.

The obvious shout would be against Jorge Masvidal, who beat up his little brother in the main event of UFC 242 to claim the BMF title. There were rumours back then of a potential fight between the two but now it could be a reality, and fans would absolutely eat it up.

Considering this fight will now be taking place at middleweight, there are options there too. Darren Till needs a fight after a second straight defeat and the trash talk that would take place beforehand would no doubt be legendary.

Diaz is a superstar, and he was one way before the sport of MMA took off the way it did in the last decade. He’s one of the most popular fighters of all time and his return is making waves as expected. A win only opens up more possibilities for him and the UFC to make waves across the world.